Full disclosure: A review copy of Omega Virus: Prologue was provided by Restoration Games.
I had an extremely good weekend a bit ago. Played a ton of games, and loved a ton of them. So, now begins the arduous process of writing them up and organizing my thoughts about them. For some of them, it’s easier said than done; it’s going to take me a hot minute to figure out how to get all the photography for Merv or Imperium done, for instance, but that’s a Future Eric Problem. In the meantime, I’m taking a look at a new title from Restoration Games. It’s sort of a preview, itself, since it’s meant to announce a new title that they’re restoring. But this is what we’ve got now, so let’s check out Omega Virus: Prologue!
In Omega Virus: Prologue, things are pretty rough. An evil AI has taken over your space station, and it’s breaking it apart! You need to do what you can to reassemble rooms, gather some key cards, and get your equipment reassembled before it’s too late. Unfortunately, the virus keeps calling you “human scum”, so it’s also kind of annoying. Will you be able to reassemble your station and equipment?
To start, each player gets a deck of floor plan cards. The cards have a  or a  on the back to denote which deck is which.
Place the six key cards in stacks of two (one for each color):
Shuffle the Location Cards next, and reveal one Location Card above each key card pile:
Shuffle the Scoring Cards next, and reveal three:
Finally, stack the Speed Bonus cards in a pile from highest on bottom to lowest on top:
You should be ready to start!
Omega Virus: Prologue is a real-time game of room construction! Your goal? Rebuilding the battery cell, satellite dish, and atmospheric purifier. Each piece of equipment is split across two cards in your deck, and you need to connect them all to end the round! Just keep an eye on the scoring conditions, as well.
There are no turns; the game is played in real-time. As quick as you’d like, you can draw a card from your deck and place it anywhere in front of you. The card you play must be either adjacent to, on top of, or partially on top of another card you played previously. If you don’t want to play a card (or cannot play a card), you can specifically place that card on the bottom of your deck instead of playing it, and you can recall already-played cards to the bottom of your deck at any time, provided you don’t split your station into two distinct parts.
If the top card of your deck has a lock symbol on it and you don’t have the corresponding key card, you cannot play it.
The Location cards match places on the space station where key cards can be found! In order to claim a key card, you must build the pictured location perfectly in that key card’s color. It cannot have more rooms than the number pictured, but it can be rotated as needed. Once you’ve constructed the room, take the key card of that color. You won’t lose it if the room is modified, and the cards in your deck that are locked with that key card are now unlocked.
The round ends as soon as a player finishes all three pieces of equipment. That player says “done” and immediately takes the top Speed Bonus card. After that, stop constructing your rooms and check the Scoring Cards, awarding them to whichever player completes the challenge. If there’s a tie, the player who took this round’s Speed Bonus card takes the Scoring Card.
After scoring, reset for a new round by returning the cards to your deck and the key cards to their spot below the Location Cards. Reveal three new Location Cards and three new Scoring Cards, and start the next round! After finishing three rounds, the player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
None! It’s an exclusively two-player game.
- Ideally, placing your cards efficiently can be useful, but placing them quickly can also be helpful. Sometimes your goal is to just expand. Get huge, build a giant yellow room or something. Other times, you really want to play smart and have a bunch of 3-size rooms or larger. Keeping an eye on the Scoring Cards is critical, as they’re your primary form of guidance beyond the Location Cards. Just dumping cards out there is an easy way to end the round, but it may not accomplish your goals.
- Getting your key cards quick can be important. Honestly, this frees you up for doing what you need to do. Ideally, you can place your Locations quickly and place them well enough that they’re in line with some Scoring Cards, but that’s not always possible. So if you clear the keys quickly, you can focus on balancing going after the Scoring Cards with reassembling your equipment. Splitting those two tasks up is much easier than trying to balance all three, so try to get your key cards collected fast.
- Keep an eye on what your opponent is doing, as well. It can be useful to see where you’re at. Do they have a massive room of the color that they need? Good for them; leave them to it and focus on getting the other Scoring Cards. It’s not always worth trying to go head-to-head if they’ve already got an advantage over you in something. Instead, focus on taking what you can while they’re distracted.
- Keep an eye on the Scoring Cards. There will occasionally be times where the Scoring Cards conflict! You’ll want the most 3+ yellow rooms but also the fewest yellow rooms. Which of those line up with having the biggest yellow room? Well, the latter. Try to see if, when there’s a pair of cards that contradict each other, if you can find a construction combination that allows you to get two out of three cards. Then again, if you’re the fastest and you tie your opponent, you could potentially get all three! That would be impressive, but that’s why I’m telling you to watch what your opponent is doing.
- It’s not worth the Speed Bonus if you can’t get any additional points. Don’t just rush the end of the round without checking the Scoring Cards! You won’t get enough points to win and you’ll potentially cede a ton of points to your opponent. The only round where the Speed Bonus is worth rushing for is the third one, and even then you should at least try to win one or two of the Scoring Cards to set some distance between you and your opponent.
- Try keeping the equipment on the fringes of your station so that you don’t accidentally cover them up. I just tend to throw it way the heck out to the edges of my station so that I can build away from it, or at least when I’m building the other half I’m not splitting up my rooms or something. I lost a few points that way in one of the games I played; it was very frustrating.
- If you’ve messed up, try to quickly place cards on the bottom of your deck. Just swoop them up, place them on the bottom of your deck, and try to uncover your equipment before you end up losing out on that Speed Bonus.
- Once you have the key cards, just hustle and dump your cards if you want that speed bonus. It’s very much, at that point, “how fast can you get through your deck?”. A clever player will try to balance that against the Scoring Cards, but hey, just pure speed works, sometimes, too; that’s literally what the speed bonus is for.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I like that both players have the same decks of shuffled cards. It gives the game some variety, but both players have an opportunity to win. It’s sort of like Legendary Forests; which player can make the best of what they have? In this case, however, the shuffle does change things up a bit, since players aren’t getting the exact same cards in the exact same order, but that doesn’t really bother me. I think it’s still a great way to allow for strategic play, since you literally had the exact same cards.
- The requirement that the room shape must match exactly with no extra rooms is good! Allows for some good challenge. It’s definitely tricky, since the cards have multiple rooms of each color. Plus, thinking quickly and spatially isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I love it, so I’m super here for it, but I like the requirement! It’s different than some other games of this type I’ve played.
- I like the variable scoring conditions for each round, but that’s not surprising, given Steven Aramini on design. Yeah, this feels a lot like real-time Sprawlopolis: Duel, and I’m extremely into that. The scoring conditions are a bit simpler than Sprawlopolis, but I think I still enjoy them.
- Overall, this game inherits from Sprawlopolis in a lot of ways that I really enjoy. The card overlapping, the multiple sections per card, and the round scoring conditions are all vaguely reminiscent of one of my favorite games, so, that’s always nice.
- I really like that locked cards have to be unlocked in order to be used, but are still in your deck. That’s a really nice challenge, since you kind of just need to immediately discard them. Plus, the locked cards aren’t guaranteed to have your equipment on them (one does, but I can’t remember which, which is good), so you can’t necessarily rely on just getting some key cards and not others. You really need to do this game in phases, and I think that demarcation is a really cool gameplay effect.
- The final knock-down, drag-out “play as many cards as possible” dead heat that happens once you’ve unlocked your entire deck can be very entertaining. It’s the sprint of the game, and I’m extremely about it. It’s just a lot of fun to participate in, because there’s nothing you can do but dig through your deck as fast as possible to find the equipment you need. It can lead to some messy play areas, but you can require players to at least create something coherent in order for their completion to count, if you want.
- Having each round’s speed bonus increase in value allows players to warm up without being penalized too much. It also has the benefit of making each round different in terms of status quo, which I like. Just because you messed up in Round 1 doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of the game and just phoning in the next two rounds; you can genuinely turn it around! Plus, for new players, having Round 1 be worth the fewest points is kind of a subtle kindness while they get used to the game.
- Very portable game! It’s going in my regular rotation. It’s a fair bit larger than anything Button Shy produces, but it can still easily fit in a pocket or something equivalent, or at least the front pocket of my backpack. Not sure I would recommend it for play on an airplane, though.
- As someone who never played Omega Virus, I was very briefly confused as to why someone would release a virus-themed game in 2021. This is how you can tell I never played the first Omega Virus, but yes, it’s a computer virus, I’m too on edge, et cetera. I’ve since calmed down.
- Square cards are routinely the bane of my existence, even more so when they get rotated and become hard to shuffle. Cards have a spine that they are easiest to riffle shuffle along, and, unfortunately, as they get turned, the stack basically just ends up “overhand shuffle only”. It’s mostly fine, since it’s basically impossible (for me, at least) to remember / memorize all of these cards. I just dislike square cards, but I accept that they are useful in some contexts, such as this one.
- It’s always a bit funny when you get mutually-exclusive goal cards in a round. Omega Virus: Prologue makes it a bit less annoying since it means that you can potentially split it with your opponent, but there’s a tempting Alternate Option: tie them exactly but get the speed bonus, so you win all tie breakers and you get all three cards in one round. I haven’t accomplished this but the fact that it could happen is compelling.
- There’s no explicit rule mentioning mirroring room shapes or prohibiting them, but getting the s-shaped rooms correctly oriented without allowing mirroring is quite difficult. I checked, and maybe I missed it, but it is very hard to rotate those S-shaped rooms in my head, and so I’ve ended up making rooms with the wrong orientation a few times. Just an explicit confirmation one way or the other would help, though I think allowing mirroring would be much easier (since rotation is already allowed). That particular thing is very challenging for many players, and I think avoiding it would be wise.
- I think that my only real complaint is going to be that I’d love to have more scoring cards and location cards, just to keep things fresh. I think more complex scoring cards (a la the Location Cards) would be a lot of fun, as well, or having bonus points for Locations that persisted until the end of the round or something. I would be up for either, frankly, though I imagine the odds of us getting Omega Virus: Prologue 2 are … not great. But I can dream!
Overall: 8.5 / 10
Overall, I was pretty impressed with Omega Virus: Prologue! I played like, 30 games the weekend I tried this one, and it was easily one of the standout titles of the weekend. It’s a little surprising, given that it’s a promotional title, but hey, if you’re going to make a game, might as well make a solid one. I think part of the reason I like it so much is that it reminds me of Sprawlopolis in a lot of very good ways. The modular card placement, the randomized scoring elements; it all calls back to a game that I quite love, and given that both games share a designer, it seems like they share a lot of commonalities. I really like the What I do appreciate is that this is a solid two-player competitive iteration, so it earned my respect. I do kind of wish the game explicitly allowed (or disallowed) mirroring building placements, as that was something that we got pretty confused by in our first playthrough. I’m hoping, from this, that the full Omega Virus will have some similarities, but there’s no real way to know until that Kickstarter, which is coming a while from now. In the meantime, I’d love to see more from this series, even though it’s a prologue. More scoring cards? More locations? I’d be down for all of it. In the meantime, I think this Omega Virus: Prologue is a great little game, and I look forward to packing it with me when I go places … whenever I can go places again!
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